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Dalai Lama Says Myanmar's Opposition Leader Can Help Save the Rohingya People

The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader urged Myanmar's pro-democracy opposition leader to "do something" amid mass migration and human trafficking crisis.
Photo by Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

Tibet's spiritual leader has urged Myanmar's formerly imprisoned opposition leader and pro-democracy champion to stand up for the Rohingya Muslim minority being persecuted by Myanmar's Buddhist population and current ruling regime.

The Dalai Lama told newspaper The Australian, he believed fellow Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi could "do something" to help the thousands of Rohingya amid a dire crisis in Myanmar that is catalyzing a mass migration and human trafficking problem abroad. Suu Kyi has remained largely silent about the Rohingya and human rights in her country.


"I met her two times, first in London and then the Czech Republic," the Dalai Lama reportedly told the paper in an interview published Thursday. "I mentioned this problem and she told me she found some difficulties, that things were not simple but very complicated."

"But in spite of that I feel she can do something," he added.

'We Were Shocked by the Cruelty': Suspected Migrant Mass Graves Found in Malaysia

Roughly 1 million Rohingya, a Muslim minority predominantly residing in western Myanmar, live in conditions comparable to apartheid and routinely face discrimination from the country's Buddhist majority. Mass reported human rights abuses in the area have driven thousands to flee the country by boat, often in dangerous conditions where they are subject to human trafficking and death at sea.

At least 7,000 people, consisting of Rohingya and economic migrants from Bangladesh, were recently stranded at sea after their boats were pushed back at port by both Malaysia and Indonesia. The two countries later caved to international pressure and allowed the boats to dock.

Rights groups fear hundreds of thousands more Rohingya migrants remain trapped at sea.

On Wednesday, a group of Buddhist monks and protesters rallied in Myanmar's largest city of Yangon to demand the government refuse entry to Rohingya boat people recently rescued from the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea. Some held signs saying "Boat People Are Not Myanmar" and "There is no Rohingya in Myanmar history".

Earlier this week, Malaysia also announced it had uncovered mass graves they believed were filled with Rohingya migrants. The sites were found close to 28 different human trafficking camps in the jungle near Malaysia's border with Thailand.

"It's not sufficient to say: `How to help these people?'" The Dalai Lama reportedly told The Australian. "This is not sufficient. There's something wrong with humanity's way of thinking. Ultimately we are lacking concern for others' lives, others' wellbeing."

VICE News' Scott Mitchell and the Associated Press also contributed to this report.